Wednesday, March 30, 2011

First First Flush…

You have probably heard about difficulties in tea gardens of Darjeeling this year. Gorkha – the ethnic group brought there by British more than hundred years ago – are blocking gardens. About whole situation there you can read on many places. In spite of this situation, most of tea merchants who are focused on teas from Darjeeling have already chosen which FF DJ they are going to offer to customers. Hundreds of samples have been sending all around the world. But those fresh LOTs are now still sitting in India- if my information is still “up to date” then only few LOTs arrived to France. Such pity for rest of tea lovers! Today I find some good news about it - here
As my dear friends (and also my customers) run the tea-eshop I got wonderful gift –four samples from four different tea gardens.  Daniel told me that they had to test almost thirty samples and make decision very quickly – Which spring leaves will be the best for their customers this year ? It can be both nice and tricky job!

I was not in Darjeeling mood for a very long time. Enjoying world of Puers and oolongs I was far to be impatiently looking for first sip of fresh First Flesh. But I had to admit, those fresh aromas and sharp tastes hit me. The tea I am going to show here is from Marybonc garden.

Opening the small bag -the familiar and unmistakable fragrances hits my nose. It always reminds me smell of fresh but ripe poppy seeds. Behinde this expressive face there are flower and fresh, greeny hay...

For those fresh samples I decided to use also fresh teapot -just brought from the kiln. This rusty, sandy clay is still quite new for us and I was curious how it will works with freshness of Darjeeling tea. And I was happy about it...

If I should say one and first taste which showed to me it would be grapefruit -with its "juicy power" and sweet bitterness. After that I finded some meadow flowers and
again green hay.... When you see this yellow, bright liquer you do not expect such strong taste as there is - if you are not heavy FF DJ drinker.

The green plate is Mirka's work -it fits to my spring mood very well...
What was even more interesting for me was how thick the liquor in my mouth was. In my memories I always have spring Darjeeling tea as tea of  aroma and taste but with watery mouth feel. The thickness of this tea was really enjoyable for me this time. I was wondering about it and also trying rest of those samples. Probably most significant here is water. During autumn we have moved to new place and water to our tap goes directly from hills. And good FF Darjeeling is sensitive guy... 

It is always funny to examine leaves -here you can see several basic types...hairy buds, bright green, yellow green and few oxidized, brown ones. Most of those leaves were too small to be convincingly taken by my camera. So please take a look in to my teapot...

I wish to Gorkha people freedom and socioreligious peace. And to tea lovers patience -it is comming. It is worth to wait...

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Spring afternoon...

Yesterday was the first day of the astrological spring and we were glazing and preparing pots for first spring kiln.

Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) - I found the first spring flower growing from the mud


I brewed first spring tea in our garden.

1998 Xi Ping Tie Guan Yin - good choice for sunny, but still cold afternoon.

Wood is already prepared...

Break is over. Loading of the kiln just began...

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Red Water from mountains

Another tea experience, I would like to share with you, arrived from Taiwan in January. It is not easy for me to write shortly and concisely all I would wish. Each new tea I have, teaches me (and usually pleases me) from very beginning - first look at the package, reading the name, first smell and observation of dry leaves. Than, when the time is right - first brew and first sip of the liquor. I am looking for the right setout with each new companion on my Way of Tea.

color of leaves goes from light yellow-green to dark green

Gao Shan Hung Shui Oolong
Origin: Shan Lin Shi, Taiwan
Harvest: Spring 2010(June 3rd)

 In this case it was package from Stephane Erler, so I knew for sure - it will be interesting. I opened the vacuum sealed bag and nice, roasted aromas reached my nose. I was drinking some aged oolongs before and my first thoughts were "this could be interesting to store!"  Gao Shan Hung Shui we can literally translates as "high-elevation red water". Maybe some more educated reader can tell us why "red water"? Anyway, Hung Shui usually refers to more traditional way of processing, which is not so common these days. Higher oxidation (more then 50%), slower and longer roasting is what also characterized this Gao Shan. I wish to see and experienced this processes live.

I like how the celadon cup have liven up the set.

first infusion is yellow green
Enjoying this tea, I find very difficult to describe individual tastes and fragrances there. Fragrances are not "popping" but rather calmed by the roast. At first, this tea resembled, in my mind, YanChas, but then I realized - the roast is not so strong and flowery scents are not from cliffs of Wui, but from mountains around Shan Lin Shi. Soup is definitely not watery, but not so creamy and thick as I know from other GaoShan oolongs. 

Thinking about it - the best thing, I find on this tea is its evenness. In the taste and fragrances as well as in mouthfell and aftertaste - there are no sharp edges. This kind of "serenity" allows to drink it often, but it is too good to be called the“everyday tea". I also find pleasant how its late infusions are still enjoyable. As the roast "calm down" fragrances in the same time it makes them deeper and long-lived.

I am glad to say that spring is slowly coming to our country-side. From my childhood the barbs with "lamb's-tails" are sign and symbol of the spring. I bring them with the mornig sun around on my tea table. We usually associate certain tea with certain kind of whether or season. In case of this Gao Shan there is no one mood to link up with. But during cold spring morning it works very well.

Wet leaves of the tea are green, with brown-red oxidized rims and spots. You can find mixture of different sizes, some leaves on stems some individual. If I should make a conclusion I would like to learn more about Hung Shui process and try more Hung Shui teas. And also try to store this tea (or similar one) for few years. I think the roast, oxidation and quality of this tea should be good presumption.